Critical Discourse Analysis is the process of deconstructing language to reveal the ideological and political functions underlying a text. This means exploring how the text works and what it is attempting to signify.
It is a non-traditional method that is entirely subjective and relies on the personal interpretation of the analyst. However, CDA can highlight some key processes happening within a text and unify this with how we operate in society every day.
The first models of CDA were inspired by the ideas of Saussure and Jakobson. Both theorists were interested by the study of phrases, treating them like signs that were made up of higher social meaning.
Many criticised them for being too reductionist. This led to CDA branching out to social theorists such as Althusser and Barthes. They went on to form the foundation for much of Foucault’s work as he pushed CDA into its second movement where research became more empirical as it was agreed that this was needed to investigate something as subjective and contextual as language and culture.
Saussure’s theory of Langue and Parole captures the key idea of CDA; he looks at language as a system of signs for sociological events. Levi Strauss and Barthes influenced contemporary discourse analysis with their study of semiotics; analysing how messages are communicated and read.
Fairclough then built upon these ideas by showing systematic links between text, culture and people. He uses CDA to highlight the ways in which communication helps to establish power relations. It helps us to analyse how words act as evidence to social and ideological theories.
The lonely hour of reading never comes
Texts are polysemy, which means there are an infinite number of interpretations that can be drawn from a text, and these fluctuate from person to person. There is a lot of ground to cover with CDA, it is a methodology that can point out elements of bias, but not identify the precise point from where it came.
There are many elements that can affect the way, for example, a newspaper article is written beyond simply its language and the politics involved.
An A-Z Glossary for Critical Discourse Analysis
Abstract ideas: thought of apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances
Active clause: When the verb of a sentence is in the active voice, the subject is doing the acting, as in the sentence “Kevin hit the ball.”
Adjective: describing word
Alliteration: words beginning with the same letter are put together
Ambiguity: vague, doubtfulness or uncertainty of meaning or intention
Anaphoric referencing: The use of a linguistic unit, such as a pronoun, to refer to the same person or object as another unit, usually a noun. The use of her to refer to the person named by Anne in the sentence Anne asked Edward to pass her the salt is an example of anaphora
Behavioural process: e.g. the car slid away
Cataphoric referencing: see anaphoric referencing – this time the ‘she’ will come before the object is named
Categorical relationships: how words relate to one another, how the mind makes these connections and remembers them. Complementary words/ opposites. Inclusive/ exclusive
Clause: Grammar A group of words containing a subject and a predicate and forming part of a compound or complex sentence.
Colloquialism: slang, shortened words, common vernacular
Complementing clause: using the word ‘and’ to join two clauses together to show that they are of equal importance
Compounds/ blends: putting elements of two words together, either whole words or only certain parts
Conceptual model: the application of the theory of metaphor into everyday life, a way of organising thoughts into ways we understand
Conjunction: joining words e.g. ‘but’ or ‘and’
Consensual model of society: the belief that society shares all its interests in common, without division of variation
Contractions: shortening of words e.g. ‘shouldn’t’
Cultural capital: Types: economic, cultural, social and symbolic – refers to someone possessing some form of wealth or superiority over another
Dependant clause: using the word ‘as’ for example to portray that there is one clause that is of less important that another, it is additional or supporting information
Determiner: words like ‘the’ or ‘a’
Disambiguation: to remove the ambiguity from; make unambiguous
Ellipsis: missing out an element e.g. a word or a letter
Euphemism: the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt
Foregrounding: using linguistic techniques to emphasise a particular word or phrase in a text
Framing: how people construct and perceive and communicate reality
Graphology: analysing the layout of a page, how something looks or is set out, the design of a text
Halliday’s speech functions – referential – communicates information, aesthetic/ poetic – pleasure in language, performative , phatic – small talk, expressive – emotions and feeling
Heteroglossia: many voices in a text
Homocentrism: a pre-occupation with countries, societies and individuals perceived to be like one- self, someone outside of that is labelled dangerous
Homographic pun – exploiting multiple meanings that can be achieved by the same word e.g. ‘foil’ which can mean to baffle, or the noun.
Homophonic pun – substitute words that sounds the same but have an unrelated meaning e.g. raised, razed.
Hypotaxis: describes the relationship a dependant clause has with a dominant one
Ideational Metafunction: language used to organise, understand and express our perceptions of the world
Ideographic pun – substituting words for ones that sound the same e.g. ‘mary’ and ‘merry’
Interpersonal Metafunction: enables us to participate in communication, take on roles, and understand feelings, attitudes and judgements
Intertextuality – pastiche, parody, allusion: the deconstruction of things we in society presume to be natural
Lexis (Lexical) words
Linguistically heterogeneous: made up of varying elements
Material process: clause describing an action e.g. Jerry took the money
Mental process: clause describing a state of mind e.g. He didn’t see me
Modality – speaker’s attitude/ opinion expressed through the verbs used in a sentence e.g. shouldn’t, couldn’t. Can be deontic, boulomaic, epistemic
Morphemes: A meaningful linguistic unit that cannot be divided into smaller meaningful parts e.g. suffixes and prefixes
Morphology: the patterns of word formation in a particular language, including inflection, derivation, and composition
Narrative: a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.
Naturalisation – the discourse appears natural, its views are taken as common sense and like it is a belief held by all
Neutralisation – disguised nature of ideology, people don’t understand the effects a text is having and believe it is written in an unbiased and objective tone
Nominalisation (Objectivation): to convert (another part of speech) into a noun
Noun: The part of speech that is used to name a person, place, thing, quality, or action and can function as the subject or object of a verb – common noun, proper noun, pronoun
Paronomasia: a play on words, a pun
Passive clause – A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb e.g. “The ball was thrown by the pitcher”
Pronouns: personal/ possessive e.g. ‘my’
Relational Process: a clause that attributes to something e.g. she was in a ward on the third floor
Repetition: using a word more than once
Rhetorical tropes – Hyperbole – an exaggeration of a word metaphor, neologism – shifting word meaning by changing the grammatical function of a word or blending two words together
Semantics: the meanings behind words, underlying a text
Sentence: A grammatical unit that is syntactically independent and has a subject
Substitution: using another word in place of another, still refers to the same thing
Syntax: the study of the rules for the formation of grammatical sentences in a language.
Tense: a category of verbal inflection that serves chiefly to specify the time of the action or state expressed by the verb.
Textual Function: Language used to relate to is said to the real world and other linguistic events
Thematic structure – what the clause is about, it describes the relationship between words and clauses to help create cohesion within the text. Constant thematic structure – the common theme shared by each clause. Linear thematic structure – the theme of a subsequent clause is the same theme as the current one
Transitivity: the study of transitivity is concerned with how actions are represented in a text, explaining the kinds of actions that occur, who does them and to whom they are done
Verb: doing word, indicates action or movement – lexical, finite/ non-finite auxiliary
Verba sentiendi – emotive language
Verbal Process: dialogue in a text